By BILL DUNCAN
This is a true Halloween story. It happened on Halloween when the youngest of my sons was still in middle school in Roseburg. My daughter, Margaret-Mary, had a cat she named Wazoo.
One rainy Halloween day, I was dressed in a coat and tie ready for a day in academia at Umpqua Community College where I taught journalism. The family was still asleep when I drove my car to the edge of the driveway and there I spied Wazoo splattered on Garden Valley Road.
I couldn’t allow my two young sons, Jack and Jeff, to witness this tragedy when they walked out to the roadway to catch the school bus. I returned to the house, took off my dress clothes and donned mud gear, got a plastic shopping bag from the storage bin, picked up a shovel from the tool shed and made my way to the road where I scooped up the remains of Wazoo, trudged up on the hill and dug a muddy grave to bury Wazoo.
I returned to the house, stripped off my muddy clothes and boots, washed off the black mud that stuck to my skin and redressed for the trip to the college. I sat on the stairwell to tie my shoes and while in that position, Wazoo jumped in my lap. To make matters more ghoulish, I had just finished reading Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary,” in which the protagonist Louis Creed buries the family cat, Jud, and is about to inform the family about the death of the cat when Jud reappears.
When my heart got back in rhythm I continued to my classroom at UCC. Whose cat is buried on my hill? I haven’t the foggiest idea, but I do know cats have nine lives, especially on Halloween.
Wazoo lived out his nine lives, and as it always seems to happen at my house, my daughter moved away and left Wazoo in my care. I have long felt pets are a nuisance -– nuisances that have to be fed, bathed, and pampered and are always underfoot. As a parent, one feels obligated to allow the children to have the experience of a pet, which meant that I had to feed, bath and see to the pet’s well being.
Over the years that included everything from pet mice, gerbils, turtles, gold fish and of course an assortment of dogs and cats of every description. My oldest daughter volunteered one Christmas break at her school to bring home the class pet, “ “Greymouse” over the holidays. That wily mouse would get out of its cage hide in such tight places as behind the freezer in the utility room.
Once I found it in the jaws of the neighbor’s cat, Blackie, and pried it loose with the help of my oldest son, John. I was struggling to get Greymouse back in his cage, when it bit John on the hand deep enough to break the skin, so John let go of Greymouse, who proceeded to scurry up my pant leg. With a swift kick I sent it slamming against the utility room wall. One dead mouse.
My wife, Ada, worried about the bite on John’s hand and called the doctor. The doctor said the mouse might be rabid and suggested we freeze the corpse for an autopsy by a veterinarian at the animal shelter. Weeks later I got a written report that the frozen mouse had died from a broken neck inflicted by a blunt force and not from rabies. Penned to the bottom was a handwritten note that said: “In the future do not freeze the corpse because it destroys any evidence of rabies.”
The first story was a Halloween story, the other was just a horror story.
(Bill Duncan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, OR 97470.)